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Jewish Entrepreneurs Network in Orange County

By , Orange County, CA


As the national unemployment rate looms at 9.8% and that of California at 12.6%, a group of Southern California professionals and entrepreneurs have turned the recession into an opportunity for networking and community building.

Meeting monthly in Mission Viejo, a planned community built in the heart of Orange County, Jewish Business Connections is the result of a partnership between Rabbi Zalman Marcus, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Mission Viejo, and Alexandra Kaplan, MBA, a business coach and consultant for Mark Kamin and Associates, a Houston based educational firm.

Marcus says that since arriving in Mission Viejo he’s toyed around with the idea of bringing professionals from across the community together. When Kaplan approached him with a similar idea just over a year ago, the project became a reality. Kaplan saw the effect of the recession on the community. Tapping into the broad knowledge-base synagogue attendees represented, it seemed only logical that Chabad would serve as the ideal base for the business community to come together.

The problem? Many of the small business owners and entrepreneurs only attended synagogue services on Shabbat and Holidays, not an appropriate time for discussing business matters.

 “So many people only come for rights of passages, such as Bar Mitzvahs or the holidays,” Kaplan explains. “And they never get a chance to share their knowledge with others or network.”

By creating an environment conducive to networking, Marcus and Kaplan have succeeded to bring people from across the community together. Though local demographics didn’t seem to support an event geared towards entrepreneurs and small business-owners, the monthly meet-ups in the Chabad House attract upwards of 45 people from as far away as Long Beach and S. Diego.

Each month attendees are treated to a guest lecturer on topics ranging from social media to brand building, followed by a deeper insight into the nature of business and life from Rabbi Marcus. Participants also enjoy the opportunity to network and schmooze.

Marcus is delighted by the response. “People who were previously uncomfortable about attending Jewish events have come to participate.” He says. “Everyone sees the potential in sharing their common experience and learning something new.”


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